Pod is Dead; Long Live Chord!

It’s been a week since the ban list announcement that shook up Modern: Treasure Cruise, Dig Through Time, and Birthing Pod were all banned—a big change, and one that upset a lot of players. Delver players were upset that the one card that lifted their deck from the lower regions of playability to the top was taken away after such a short stint of being played. Dig Through Time lovers were mostly quiet, I suppose because combo players in Modern are used to having pieces being taken away when their decks become too good, and to be fair, they probably hated Delvers with Treasure Cruise backup more than they liked having Dig Through Time.

But Pod players… Pod players were FURIOUS. How DARE they ban a card that lets you play with all these interesting creatures? Isn’t that what Wizards wants? Creature decks that reign supreme? Birthing Pod was soooo interesting and complex, and it wasn’t even that good. The card is GREEN FOR F**** SAKE!

I’m sorry, green players, I know this is new territory for all of you. Green cards are generally not too good. However, Birthing Pod did something very dangerous: putting cards into play without paying their mana cost (and it even tutors!). This is very often very broken. Think of Stoneforge Mystic. Think of Hypergenesis. These cards are only legal in Eternal formats for a reason. Pod may not have been that broken yet, but its existence in a format that Wizards tries to actively support put constraints on what kind of creatures could be printed. Siege Rhino didn’t break Pod yet, but it could only get better. When the deck already won its fair share of Grands Prix, where do you draw the line?

Of course, this made a whole deck straight up unplayable. Birthing Pod was the only card that held Pod decks together. Nobody plays Kitchen Finks or Restoration Angel in real decks. Mana dorks are for the kitchen table, not Modern. Siege Rhinos belong in Standard. And all those bullets? I wouldn’t even put those in my sideboard if it weren’t for the almighty Birthing Pod, savior of terrible creatures, beacon of hope to green mages.

Wait, actually, that’s not true. The majority of the cards in Pod decks weren’t bad. Yes, finding certain bullets when you needed them with Pod’s help was sweet and powerful, but one of the Pod’s strengths was that you did not need Pod to win. You played a strong, value-based creature strategy that was more than capable of delivering a beatdown without ever drawing the deck’s namesake card.

Guess what? You can still do that, and you can even still find bullets if you want. Take a look at the following list, for example:

Melira Chord by Jay Lansdaal

All that is old will be new again. If we ever end up referring to certain formats like we classify historical periods, the time we are about to enter is the renaissance. Old classics will be rediscovered, and decks that used to be good will be good again. Affinity, Twin, BGx decks—they’ll all resurface soon enough.

The above list is another classic: an updated version of one of Andrew Cuneo’s first Melira Pod decks (the one that went all the way up to Protean Hulk, of Hulk-Flash fame. Look it up if you haven’t heard of it before).

We might not have Birthing Pod anymore, but we still have Chord of Calling, which lends itself perfectly to finding small creatures like Melira, Viscera Seer, and Kitchen Finks. Having more copies makes you more likely to naturally draw into your combo, which means you are a lot more likely to actually “go off” on turn three or four, gaining infinite life. That’s a great way to race decks like Affinity, which haven’t been touched at all with the bans.

Some key parts to the above deck are the full suite of Wall of Roots, to support Chord of Calling (for those who don’t know, you can both tap the Wall of Roots and add a counter to it to add GG for Chord in total) and even Stain the Mind out of the sideboard, and the almost full suite of the creatures you need to combo off with. Eternal Witness also becomes a key part of the deck, as Chording for it then returning the Chord with the Witness is a great way to build your board without investing cards.

Overall, this is a combo deck with a beatdown backup plan, not the other way around like Birthing Pod. If you’re looking for a more midrange/value deck with a combo backup, you could try something like this:

Angel Chord by Jay Lansdaal

This is much more a Restoration Angel value deck, with Chord of Calling and possibly Garruk finding the appropriate targets for the Angel. Notice how not having a Birthing Pod makes subtle differences in a list. You want more of key cards, and you also don’t have to think of mana costs as much. In general, I’ve often found Entomber Exarch an expensive Sin Collector, but it made sense to play with Pod. Without Pod, you might as well just play more Sin Collectors (cheaper for Chord too!).

I have Blade Splicers over Kitchen Finks in the above deck because they help add extra creatures to the board, which is great for Chord, Voice tokens, and team pump effects like Gavony Township and Archangel of Thune (effects we’ll have to lean heavier on in absence of Pod—this is now your best way to break board stalls). The Splicers even work great with Restoration Angel. Resto really is good in this deck.

You know where Restoration Angel is even better?

Kiki Chord by Jay Lansdaal

Kiki Pod has always been a dirty pleasure of mine. Four colors, crazy combo potential with a Birthing Pod out, and opportunities to randomly start singing “Let’s Have a Kiki!” (not to mention my little niece is called Kiki—before you ask, my brother does not play Magic). This deck does not have the crazy combo potential that Birthing Pod provided together with Deceiver Exarchs and Phantasmal Images, and in fact, it probably doesn’t want to stretch the manabase for blue at all anymore.

However, this deck has all the synergy that I could pack into it. Restoration Angel can go nuts with Wall of Omens, Blade Splicer, and Huntmaster of the Fells, or it can combo off with Kiki-Jiki (just like Village Bell Ringer). The Walls and high-toughness creatures make it likely that you’ll have plenty of animals lying around to utilize Chord with, letting you get some extra mileage out of certain bullets.

The main part I am excited about in this deck is Courser of Kruphix in tandem with Domri Rade. Courser reveals the top card of your deck, and since you play 23 lands and 30 creatures, your chances of drawing two extra cards by plusing Domri and using Courser’s land playing ability in the right order are fairly high. As long as both cards live, you can do this every turn. I’m pretty sure you outdraw control decks at that point.

Your sideboard is filled with bullets to destroy specific decks, but it might need some tuning based on what decks become a big part of the metagame. Other creatures to consider for the sideboard are Cunning Sparkmage, Aven Mindcensor, and Voice of Resurgence, or Burrenton Forge-Tender and Kor Firewalker if you’re afraid of Burn.

Out of the three decks I put in here, this last one is the one I’m most excited about and one that I’ll likely play for actual points in my weekly Modern tournament. I’ll report back if it turns out to be really good (or really bad).

Talking about weekly tournaments, I’ve been playing in a small tournament circuit in South Florida called the South Florida Magic Championship. This circuit has gotten me to play Legacy weekly for the foreseeable future, so if anybody would be interested in Legacy content, I should be able to provide it without sounding like a complete moron soon enough. Just let me know in the comments!

Jay Lansdaal
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